sweet_adelheid posted a Holy Saturday meditation. Excerpts:
The Church lives between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection and the final consummation of all things which Christ will bring; the Church is a pilgrim people, always on the way towards a promised goal; here the Church does not have a continuing city but seeks one to come. On the way Christ feeds the Church with Word and Sacraments, and it has the gift of the Spirit in order that it may not lose the way.This is an excerpt from the Basis of Union of the Uniting Church in Australia – a remarkable document that forms part of the foundation of the denomination to which I belong. And it is this passage (from paragraph 3, “Built upon the One Lord Jesus Christ”) that I tend to link with a respected Minister’s repeated statements that “we are a Holy Saturday people”.
I can’t help but wonder sometimes whether Peter denied Jesus so that he could stay closer to the fire. So that he could flirt a little (okay, he was married, but try telling me it wasn’t on his mind) with the serving-woman who called him out. Of course, he also didn’t want to be arrested and killed – he’d just sliced a guy’s ear off, attacked the slave of the High Priest, not a good thing to do if you want to stay incognito. But how much was staying warm? How much was staying comfortable?
Just as it is tempting to see ourselves in the prodigal son and not his elder brother, it is so very tempting to read of Peter and say ‘I would do better’. But I know I wouldn’t. Not really. Faced with a place at the fire or the pain of a cross beside Jesus, would you really choose the cross? If so, you are a better person than I am.
We are human, like Peter, and flawed. We can never be perfect, do everything, satisfy everyone. Peter tried, but on a cold night a fire, a smile, and the safety of a moment more of anonymity meant more. Do we doubt, though, that Jesus loved Peter? That God loved Peter?
Even more, there is the story of the man on the cross beside Jesus. He was a criminal. There is never any suggestion that the men on either side of Jesus had not been fairly judged. He was going to what – as far as the scriptures deign to tell us – was a deserved death. And yet when he asked that Jesus remember him, Jesus doesn’t say ‘I will remember you’. He says ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ (Luke 23: 42-43) Today this criminal will be with Jesus and with his father. They are words that make me think of Jesus raising a kneeling man up, holding his arm, touching his cheek. ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’
Asked where God was when a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp was hung, Jurgen Moltmann is said to have replied ‘on the cross, beside the prisoner in his pain. On the cross, beside the people as they were made to watch.’* God never leaves us alone, even in the deepest distress that we can imagine.
Distress and brokenness, although we always wish that we are not brought to such a place, can lead us to contemplation: not of ourselves, but of God. Of the love poured out for us on the cross. Of the truth of God’s presence with us throughout our Holy Saturday journey through life. That like the criminal crucified with Jesus, we are loved. That Jesus raises us up, holding our arm, touching our cheek. Assuring us of his love.
One part I didn't include in the above excerpt talks about wilderness experience, but I really resonated with Adelheid's comments about confusion and helplessness and impatience to get it over with. I also thought about how one of my friends is currently in a wilderness situation -- and will be through much of this week and probably longer. I've been thinking about silence, about disconnect, about embodying God's presence for each other.
I've never observed Holy Saturday before, and this whole day I haven't really known how to honor the day, but spending it in my house in the quiet with some rain outside, sitting with thoughts and mild confusion, feels appropriate (plus of course being present with the aforementioned friend via email and prayer).
Heading out to Holy Saturday Vigil now...